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AN OBITER DICTUM IS NOT BINDING

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Even in the Supreme Court, an obiter dictum is clearly not binding on us or indeed on the lower courts, for obiter dicta, though they may have considerable weight, are not rationes decidendi and are therefore not conclusive authority and are not appealable. See American International Insurance Company v. Ceekay Traders Ltd (1981) 5 SC 81 at 110, Afro – Continental Nigeria Ltd v. Joseph Ayantuyi & Ors (1995) LPELR – 218 (SC) (1995) 9 NWLR (Pt. 420) 411.

— Okoro, JSC. Anyanwu v. PDP (2020) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1710) 134

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OBITER DICTUM DISTINGUISHED FROM RATIO DECIDENDI

An obiter dictum is an expression of opinion made by a Judge in passing in the course of delivering judgment, but which does not decide the live issues in the matter. The ratio decidendi on the other hand, is the principle of law upon which a particular case is decided. It has the binding force of precedent. All lower Courts are bound by the ratio decidendi of the decision of a higher Court. The ratio decidendi has also been defined as “the reason for deciding.”

– Kekere-Ekun JSC. CITEC v. Francis (2021) – SC.720/2017

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GROUND OF APPEAL CHALLENGING AN OBITER DICTA IS INCOMPETENT

I only wish to restate here that it is the law that a ground of appeal attacking an obiter dictum is incompetent and it is liable to be struck out. See Alhaji Dahiru Saude v. Alhaji Halliru Abdullahi (1989) 4 NWLR (Pt. 116) 387 and Xtoudos Services (Nig.) Ltd and Anor. v. Taisei (W.A.) Ltd. and Anor. (2006) 15 NWLR (Pt. 1003) 533. As a rule, a ground of appeal should relate to, and be an attack or a challenge to the ratio decidendi of the decision appealed against. See Lasisi Ogbe v. Sule Asade (2009) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1172) 106 and Rt. Hon. Michael Balonwu and Ors. v. Governor of Anambra State and Ors. (2009) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1172) 13 … To conclude this judgment, I find no merit in this appeal and it is hereby dismissed. The decision of the trial Court dismissing the appellants motion on notice, including the order for costs is hereby affirmed. There, however, no order for costs as the parties are hereby directed to bear their respective costs in this Court.

— M.A.A. Adumein JCA. Anibor V. EFCC (CA/B/305/2012, 11 DEC 2017)

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BETWEEN A RATIO DECIDENDI AND AN OBITER DICTUM

The ratio decidendi of a case is the principle or rule of law upon which a court’s decision is founded. It is thus the reason for the decision or the reasons, principle, or ground upon which a case is decided. An obiter dicta or obiter dictum on the other hand means something said in passing a judicial comment made while delivering a judicial opinion but one that does not embody the decision of the court. See Oleksander –V- Lowestar Drilling Company Ltd (2015)9 NWLR (prt. 1464) 337, Awokunle –V- NEPA (2007) LPELR – 8766 (CA) and Anyanwu –V- PDP (2020) 3 NWLR (prt. 1710) 134 at 160″.

– PER M.L. SHUAIBU, J.C.A. Cross & Star v. Government of Cross River State (2022)

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OBITER DICTUM VS RATIO DECIDENDI

An opinion of a court upon which no issue had been joined by the parties amounts to obiter dictum and cannot therefore constitute a ground of appeal. See Bamgboye V. University of Ilorin (1999) 10 NWLR (Pt.622) 290. However, a Ratio decidendi according to the Black’s Law Dictionary simply means; “Reason for deciding.” The principle or rule of law on which the court’s decision is founded.” It could also mean the rule of law on which a later court thinks that a previous court’s judgment is founded.”

— C.B. Ogunbiyi, JSC. Ogbolosingha v. B.S.I.E.C. (2015) – SC.165/2013

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OBITER DICTUM MAY BE A GROUND OF APPEAL WHERE IT IS CLOSELY LINKED TO THE RATION

See Eneh v. Ozor (2016) 16 NWLR (Pt. 1538) 219 @ pp. 233 234, where it was stated inter alia thus: It is well settled that grounds of appeal must arise or flow from or tied to the judgment of the Court appealed against. In fact a ground of appeal needs to be against the ratio decidendi of the Court and not obiter dicum or remarks by the Court except where the obiter or remark is closely linked with the ratio as to be deemed to have radically influenced the ratio.

— B.A. Georgewill JCA. Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc V. Longterm Global Capital Limited & Ors. (CA/L/427/2016, 9 Mar 2018)

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OBITER DICTA CANNOT BE THE BASIS FOR AN APPEAL

It must be reiterated that it is not every pronouncement of a Court that should be the basis of an appeal. It is well settled that an opinion expressed by a Court cannot be a valid basis of an appeal. – Sankey JCA. Abdul v. State (2021)

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